The chip, dubbed the P55C, is a new multimedia-enhanced Pentium processor that is expected to usher in a new class of P55C-equipped PCs that will offer dramatic improvements in PC video, sound, and graphics capabilities. Slated to become available in the fourth quarter, the single multimedia chip will combine many of the functions that must now be handled by separate chips on graphics, video and sound cards, thereby improving performance and reducing the cost of multimedia PCs.
At Intermedia World, Intel will spell out the detail of the chip and is planning to give a technology demonstration of a P55C prototype although the actual demo may be derailed by technical problems, the sources said.
Michael Slater, publisher of the Microprocessor Report newsletter, said the chip will have some distinct advantages for users interested in feature-laden multimedia PCs.
"People who buy PCs with 3D [accelerators], MPEG cards (for video playback), and sound cards probably can eliminate all of these and get comparable performance [with the P55C]. These cards [bought separately] can cost about $500," he said.
Slater added that users--by the first quarter of 1997--will essentially get high-end multimedia, such as MPEG and 3D, at the price point of a typical entry level PC today. Entry-level PCs are now priced in the $1,200 to $2,000 price range. "The P55C should provide a significant boost to entry-level consumer PCs," he added.
The P55C is expected run at a clock speed of 200 MHz, compared to current Pentiums which run at a peak speed of 166 MHz. At the heart of the P55C beats an Intel technology called MMX. Intel claims that these MMX enhancements in the P55C will improve performance for video, sound, and graphics, from 1.5 to 4 times the speed of the current generation of Pentium processors. Intel will also beef up the P55C with a larger cache memory (fast memory that's built into the Pentium) than current Pentiums and other new circuits to speed up multimedia.
But there's a catch. To get these dramatic speed improvements, software developers must rewrite their applications. Intel is currently evangelizing the technology and talking to a host of software companies including Microsoft. Specifically, Intel wants Microsoft to supply development tools called compilers that would allow software vendors to write applications that take advantage of MMX.
Soon after beginning shipments of the P55C in the fourth quarter, Intel will introduce MMX technology into all Pentium and Pentium Pro products and should be shipping only multimedia-enhanced chips by the first quarter of 1997, the company said.
Intel is also expected to keep working on the technology and introduce even faster multimedia technologies in future next-generation processors such as the P7, said sources familiar with the MMX developments.